Speaking in Tongues by Andrew Bovell, dir Toby Frow, Duke of York’s Theatre, 18th September-12th December
It goes against the current west end trend of stage versions of films (Dirty Dancing, Hairspray, Sister Act and soon Legally Blonde) to have a good movie restored to its possibly better original stage version. Australian playwright Andrew Bovell’s Speaking in Tongues was reworked as Lantana (2001), starring Geoffrey Rush, Barbara Hershey and Anthony LaPaglia. The film is a gripping suburban thriller, laying bare two interweaving adulterous affairs in an emotional cockpit of recrimination and bitterness. But the play, seen briefly at Hampstead Theatre nine years ago, is an even more challenging artefact, with actors doubling roles on a split stage of two simultaneously occupied hotel rooms. Long solo speeches break up the dialogue, while “speaking in tongues,” or glossolalia, suggests people coming out with stuff they never knew they had inside them.
Bovell, who co-authored Baz Luhrmann’s Strictly Ballroom, had a big success earlier this year with When the Rain Stops Falling, his climate-change epic at the Almeida Theatre. He should consolidate that stage reputation if rising young director Toby Frow gets the best out of a cast led by John Simm, best known for Life on Mars on television, New Zealand actress Kerry Fox (An Angel at My Table, Intimacy) and the brilliantly versatile Ian Hart.
Michael Coveney is a theatre critic for Whatsonstage.com and author
This piece first appeared in the September edition of Prospect